AKA River Caves Canyon, AKA the Water Tunnel
Access: Easy walk though there is some steep loose stuff off natural bridge into the gully no swims but some deep wades. No abseils but some rock scrambles, especially if you want to stay dry above the waste . You will be walking through the creek and the rocks can be very slippery, you will need shoes with a bit of grip that you don’t mind being soaked. Woolen socks help hold off the chill.
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward under normal conditions though the trail can be over grown and hard to follow in the gully.
Map: Cullen Bullen, Lithgow and Rock Hill 1:25000 maps are handy to find your way in These can be purchased at Lithgow Tourist information center or online for around $10 each.
Time: You could probably get through and back in 1.5hrs or so but why hurry? Give yourself a few hours to enjoy the experience.
River Caves is another short but spectacular canyon with relatively easy access.
The floor of the canyon is relatively wide but higher up the walls narrow and twist in such a way as to make it seem dark and cave like in spots.
It is possible to do the walk as a loop but most parties walk in to the bottom of the canyon, work their way upstream until it opens out and then turn around and come back the way they came.
Once you have done it a few times and are 100% confident on the walk in and out it is a nice trip art night, when the glowworms come to life and fill the walls with their changing constellations.
Getting there: The walk starts at the locked gate on the Mt Cameron fire trail above Natural Bridge (A low saddle between gullies). The Newnes state forest is a working forest so roads conditions are apt to change or new roads appear. Having the correct map will help
Drive out along the Glowworm Tunnel road from either Lithgow or the Zigzag Railway, to the Bungleborri picnic area. (rough clearing in the pine forest at the Black fellows hands turn off)
Reset our odemeter here. Continue along the Glowworm tunnel road for approximately 9.5km and turn right onto the Eastern Boundary rd (Usually sign posted.)
Continue up the hill for approx 500m and turn left onto the Mt Cameron fire trail (10km mark). Veer right at the Y intersection just down from here.
At about the 13.1 km mark you will come to a Y intersect. Left points to Mt Cameron. Right to Deep Pass. While it is possible to take the left there is a rough 4×4 creek crossing (Diner Crk) at the bottom of the gully so most people will want to detour around this by taking the right toward Deep Pass.
Follow the main road toward the Deep Pass car park until a left turn at the 14.1km mark. Follow this trail down (a little rough in some spots so not good for cars with low clearance,4×4 recommended just for a bit of ground clearence) until it rejoins the Mt Cameron Fire trail. Remember this intersection for the drive out. Go right and follow the road to the locked gate at the 16.8km mark.
Finding the canyon: Pass the locked gate and follow the old road (now a rough trail) down the hill to where it flattens out in a low saddle. This is Natural bridge.
Look for a narrow trail leading down to the left and wind your way down into the gully. This can be steep and loose in spots.
Once in the floor of the gully follow the trail down along a dry creek bed. The trail can be hard to follow here. It is possible to make your way down either the right or left side of the gully but I find it easier to start in the creek bed and look for the trail along the left hand side. Approximate 1km in you come to the main creek, Budgary (Buggary) Ck. The canyon is just up stream for this junction.
Head up stream and you will soon see the narrow, cave like slot in the walls.
Making your way up stream the canyon starts reasonably wide and vegetated but soon forms a narrow darker section. This finishes with a deepish wade (mid thigh depending on water levels) which brings you to an open chamber. Continuing up the creek from here involves getting wetter as it passes through a low tunnel on the far side of the pool. Alternatively with a bit of a rock scramble you can climb up on the right hand bank and make your way over the top of the tunnel on ledges to where it joins back up with the creekbed at the top of a small cascade.
Another dark section follows to a cathedral like opening at the far end of the canyon. To do the loop you can continue around to the left, taking the left option at any fork until you ascend a steep gully up through the cliff line then up a ridge to the road, up hill of where you parked. Or alternatively make your way back down the canyon and back the way you came, which is the more popular option.
Note: The great outdoors is an ever changing place. Bush fires, changing weather, vegetation growth and forestry activities can all effect the trail conditions and thus the difficulty of the walk. These are a rough guide only and are by no means meant to be a definitive guide . They do not replace the need adequate map reading and navigational skills
Note 1: Taking care While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails. Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.
Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police for very little.
Note 2: First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. A basic first aid is highly recommended
Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for you first few outing is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.
The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.
Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.
Other things of Interest near by:
On the opposite side of natural bridge an old rd leads down to Deep Pass north and the ruins of an old hut (Guzzlers Hut?), complete with outdoor flushing dunny perched up on the cliff edge…
The trail down from Natural bridge to the hut is quiet over grown these days and it is possibly easier to access from back along the Mt Cameron fire trail a little ways (there is another locked gate/barrier at the start of a side road that leads down over rock ledges)
Deep Pass Canyon is also worth a visit while you are in the area